Recipes!

I have shepherd’s pie in the oven, a clean kitchen (after cleaning up for the second time today and the 5th time in the last 48 hours!), a sleeping hubby and toddler and I’m sitting down doing something for myself (and for any of you who are interested in reading this). I’m only mentioning this as it is such a rare occasion and it’s pretty awesome, and I’ve been trying to be more grateful for the small things in my every day life.

Ok, back on track – I have been asked by a few people for some of the recipes from my recent blog posts.
I certainly can’t take credit for coming up with most of the recipes, but I’m very happy to share some of my favourites with you and give you my tips and any modifications that I used to better suit my needs and available ingredients.

The Donna Hay Feb/March 2016 issue became my best friend when planning my Winery by the Sea menu. Most of the main course and the delectable dessert were from there.

Honey wood smoked salmon with quick pickled tomato 
Honey_wood_smoked_salmon_with_quick_pickled_tomato
As I mentioned in the last blog post, Daddy Rich was in charge of this one and he did an exceptional job of following the recipe exactly. After two trips to the hardware store, he eventually settled on the Samba seafood smoking chips, which is a bIMG_7918lend of mesquite and alder wood. I used two individual pieces of salmon instead of a whole salmon, as there were only two of us.
click for link to recipe

 

IMG_7919Roasted peach and blueberry ice-cream sandwich 
I replaced the vanilla ice cream with vanilla bean frozen yoghurt which gave the dish a tartness that contrasted the sweet roasted fruit beautifully. I didn’t beat the yoghurt to soften it – instead, I just left it to melt slightly, then gave it a good stir with a wooden spoon before adding the fruit to it. That worked well – just be careful to not over mix it, otherwise you lose the crisp white colour of the ice cream and it becomes purple and the gorgeous combination of colours disappears.
click for recipe

Grilled Avo with Seared Tuna “Salsa” IMG_7681
I took inspiration from a few different recipes for this one. I combined and changed them to suit my menu. It was an experiment, but I was very happy with the result. The quantities in the recipe are based on my personal preference, so please taste and adjust as you go – there is no right or wrong.
click for recipe

I hope these recipes give you as much pleasure as I got from cooking and devouring the products. Please let me know how you go if you do make anything and also if there are any others recipes that you would like.

Happy cooking!

 

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Winery by the sea

Update 24 April 2016: I now have a few of these recipes up on my latest post – enjoy!

mealtime playlist
January 2016 was filled with lots of “simchas” (celebrations) and a whole lot of love!
It was also filled with many, MANY hours of travelling. I found myself going from one wine region by the water to another to celebrate the love of two very special couples.

It started with the whole family travelling to New Zealand to surprise my baby sister on her engagement to her Kiwi boyfriend. Daddy Rich, Little B and myself took a short break in Auckland where we spent a day on the magnificent Waiheke Island (94 square kilometers of beaches and wineries), before meeting the rest of the clan in The Bay Of Islands where my future brother-in-law’s family has their bach, a very special place for their family and my sister as well. We visited different wineries, mostly dictated by which ones had space for Little B to run and play (how times have changed!). We ate and drank as much as being parents could allow and we even splurged on a beautiful bottle of pinot, only to get it confiscated at the airport days later (lesson learnt: never EVER forget wine in your carry on luggage!!!) We bonded with our family-to-be and mostly just had good old fashioned fun spending quality time together and celebrating the love of two incredibly special souls.

After this five day whirlwind of love, laughter and LOTS of delicious wine and food, Rich and I travelled to Perth, where we braved the bush fires and petrol shortages and drove 6.5 hours south to Margaret River. We were literally there for 36 hours, for the wedding of two very good friends, before doing the 6.5 hour drive and 4 hour flight back to Sydney. It was a lot of hours on the road and inland Western Australia was not what you would call scenic (unless you count the unseasonably busy McDonalds in Collie), but the wedding, fit for royalty, set in a forest just a few kilometers from the ocean was not something to miss!

It was on the way home from our Winery By The Sea trip, that I was inspired to start this blog. I couldn’t wait to try replicate just a little of how special and romantic our little holiday had been.

It took a while for me to get my dinner underway and in the end it was pretty last minute –  but we were happy to use the opportunity for a special romantic experience for just myself and Daddy Rich.

Sight:

The table decor was simple and inspired by nature – the twisted branches, greenery of the vines and magnificent roses that were part of the wedding decor as well as in the wineries we visited. I used unassuming backdrops of natural materials with neutral colours such as the woven table mat, linen cloth and serviettes with hessian accents, which allowed for the simple beauty of the peachy-cream roses and colourful food to really pop. The soft tones continued with the dusty miller foliage laid carefully along the centre of the table, perfectly nestled the crystal vases of roses and glowing candles.
I used sea shell scented candles which reminded us of collecting shells with Little B on Devonport Beach in NZ and they created a perfectly soft, romantic glow.
The colours of the glassware and plates, sea green and turquoise, were suggestive of the ocean and rolling vineyards. IMG_7644
A similar colour scheme was used for the serving ware with gorgeous Mud and David Edmonds pieces taking centre stage.
The bottle of Voyager Estate chardonnay, siting elegantly next to the citrus and mint flavoured water, instantly reminded us of our morning outing to the Cape Dutch Style vineyard in Margaret River where we sampled and purchased the bottle.

Smell:
The salted caramel candles had the most delicious sweet yet slightly salty smell, so reminiscent of the delicious treats and fresh salty air of Margaret River and little islands of NZ.
The honey-smoked salmon was smoked by Daddy Rich himself, and so our open plan kitchen/dining room had the wonderful smoky scent of a bush barbeque, which we is how we ate in the Bay of Isles.

Sound:
ocean sounds instrumental
The playlist I chose for entrees seemed a little cheesy, but it worked! It was just instrumental relaxing music with some sounds of the ocean. It definitely set the mood and brought our energy down a notch, after the last minute rush of putting Little B to bed, last minute food prep and getting ourselves dressed and ready for our (date) night in.
I then changed the music to the more upbeat Jack Johnson/John Mayer, which is the tyDSCN1468pe of music we listen to on holiday while relaxing by the water. Bliss 🙂
Another reason for selecting acoustic style guitar music was to try recreate the very special atmosphere at the bach where my sister’s soon to be brother-in-law strummed love songs for us over dinner.
Jack Johnson

Touch:
The slightly rough textures of the linen tablecloth and serviettes helped to create the sense that we were in a luxurious yet natural environment. The textured blue wine glasses also added to the tactile experience.

Taste:
Entrees: grilled avocado with seared tuna, pine nut and coriander in sesame and soy dressing
IMG_7643The fact that this dish turned out to be so yummy was a very pleasant surprise – it was my first time trying the warm avo and it was amazing! Being an ocean themed meal, I wanted to serve fish for entrees and mains. The flavour and texture combination of the creamy pine nuts, fresh coriander and tangy sesame oil, soy and chilli dressing was just right paired with the seared tuna.

Mains: Honey wood smoked salmon with quick pickled tomatoes, watercress and walnut pesto pasta, and grape and pomegranate salad with spiced nuts

My second fish dish was also an experiment, and as I said earlier, Daddy Rich did an amazing job! I’m lucky to have a great sous chef who loves smoked food!IMG_7852IMG_7836
I wanted to do the pasta as the green pesto and leaves were obviously reminiscent of the greenery everywhere we went. With the addition of the yummy pecorino cheese, and the Vintage Merlot Salt from spice specialists Gewürzhaus that I seasoned it with, it was a great accompaniment to the fish.
The salad came from a recipe from a wellness magazine that I picked up at the airport in Perth. I loved it as it had grapes, sultanas and verjuice, which symbolised the vineyards and the spiced nuts for exotic crunch. With clean plates at the end, we were positively stuffed, but very happy!

Dessert: roasted peach and blueberry vanilla frozen yogurt sandwiches
DSCN1478
This was a seriously wonderful way to end the meal. The inspiration for this dessert was a little market stall somewhere between the Bay of Isles and Russell airport where they were selling the most incredible blueberries. We had fresh blueberry frozen yoghurt and blueberry smoothies as our last culinary treat in NZ. I substituted vanilla frozen yoghurt for the vanilla ice cream that the recipe called for. And I’m glad I did! The tartness of the yoghurt complimented the sweet citrusy filo pastry and caramelised fruit perfectly. And the artist in me had so much fun making it!

Despite our intentions of opening the dessert wine, we were just too stuffed! But Daddy Rich had a coffee and I just watched and pretty much licked my plate clean!

Honest Outcome:
Good:
Everything actually turned out better than expected and I don’t think I would change much next time. Smoking the fish was easier than expected and definitely going to become a more regular occurrence.
Not so good: Because of the last minute nature of the dinner, I didn’t have time to let the bottom layer of the filo sandwich freeze before adding the filling, and so it was a little soggy… lucky the flavour was still good! I also didn’t have much time to source decor so I made do with what I had at home (I used left over curtain material for the table cloth!)

Shabbat like my grannies used to do it

A few weeks ago, it was my turn to host the family for Shabbat. Daddy Rich asked for mock crayfish, and of course, I had to oblige! For those who are scratching their heads because they have no idea what mock crayfish is – it is a traditional South African dish often served at Jewish functions. It doesn’t sound amazing – pieces of white fish in a basic thousand island dressing – but it is! This was the spark for my inspiration for the traditional Shabbat dinner, just like my Granny Sally and Granny Sylvia used to make it, throughout my childhood and teenage years in South Africa.

Shabbat is one of the key practices in the Jewish religion. Even if you “don’t do much” in the way of keeping all the laws, I would say that having Shabbat dinner on a Friday night, in whatever form it takes, is one thing that most traditional Jewish families observe.
For me, Shabbat is synonymous with four things, which I would call the symbols of Shabbat: 1) Shabbat candles 2) wine 3) challah (special sweet brioche-like braided bread) and lastly, and for me, most importantly, 4) family.
From these four elements we get the full sensory experience that is Shabbat.

Sight:

Shabbat is a very important part of the week for my family and me and therefore, I wanted to give it the respect it deserves. I did this by styling the dinner in a formal way, with the table properly set, and the silver polished. On walking into the dining room, I wanted my guests to know that it was not just a regular dinner on any night of the week. The immediate sense of tradition is felt on seeing the distinctive Shabbat table with a white, more formal, tablecloth, laden with the challah board, wine and wine glasses and a simple arrangement of flowers. On the sideboard are the glowing candles in their beautiful traditional silver candlesticks, which I got as a gift for my Batmitzvah, 19 years ago.

Sound:
The sound of Shabbat is of voices – singing, laughing, talking and discussing all kinds of topics, usually a few simultaneously! Beyond this, there is silence. We cannot listen to music or watch TV and so the sweet sound of family is what characterises Shabbat.

Smell:
The sweet smell of challah warming in the oven just cannot be beaten! I waited until the meal was almost ready to be served before putting the challah into the oven, so that the irresistible smell wafting from the oven would whet the appetites and draw everyone to their seats. And if your mouth isn’t already watering, the juicy smell of the rich garlic and tomato sauce in which the meat was roasting, will definitely do it!

Touch:
The white silk tablecloth, soft to the touch, signifies the special meal of Shabbat.
But in my family, the soft, doughy challah that you eat with your hands is definitely quintessentially SHABBAT. Rolling and squashing the “inside” into a ball may not be the greatest table etiquette but it’s the best tradition in our family!

Taste:
While a Shabbat meal can really be anything, from take outs to gourmet, the menu this week will take us back 15+ years ago to the welcoming homes of both my grannies, Granny Sally and Granny Sylvia where we were surrounded by family every single Friday night.

This is my version of “the traditional shabbat”

Starters:

  • Avo halves filled with mock crayfish and topped with a sprinkle of paprika (just for Rich – although I think this is everyone’s favourite part of the meal!)
  • Chopped herring, carefully decorated with boiled egg and cucumber  (pickled vs. fresh is the perennial debate) with kichel, a sweet biscuit cracker, usually served with savoury dishes. Even Little B, my 20 month old can’t get enough!
  • And the warm, doughy, and deliciously sweet challah sprinkled with sea salt

When I told my sister living overseas the theme of my dinner, she said “but are you making avo with mock crayfish?”. I replied “G, that’s literally why I’m doing this dinner!” Enough said! And we couldn’t have a (South African) Jewish meal without herring and kichel. As a kid I was always Granny Sally’s herring decorator, and I had so much fun doing it again now in my own home.

Main:

  • Roast Beef with Monkey Gland sauce, onion soup roast potatoes and broad bean and pea smash with mint and lemon, served with a traditional French salad, complete with sliced radishes!

I chose to do a traditional meat and potatoes meal. There was much debate at the table about the origins of Monkey Gland sauce – is it a marketing trick to get people to think that us Africans eat monkey’s glands? Gross! It’s really just an amazingly delicious home made chunky barbeque gravy sauce, but slightly spicy and so, so much better.

My mum always made roast potatoes with onion soup powder sprinkled on top, they went all crispy and delish, and even me, the non potato loving person that I am, could never resist those. I forgot to buy onion soup mix so onion powder just had to suffice at the last minute… it wasn’t at all the same unfortunately, but good enough.
At both my grannie’s houses, there were always peas. I love peas! But I felt like giving them a bit of a makeover so I added broad beans and an extra kick of flavour. The freshness of the mint with a zing of the lemon was the perfect slightly gourmet side, and it still reminded us of the good old days.

My mum brought the salad, with slice radishes just like her mum used to make…the perfect accompaniment.

Dessert:

  • mango and coconut ice cream with manuka honey and lime, sprinkled with roasted coconut chips, and a huge bowl of fresh litchis (South African for Lychees)

Mango ice-cream was a staple, and again, I felt like giving it an Aussie summer twist. The litchis/lychees were a throwback to the litchis that usually featured in my Granny Sylvia’s meals, either in her Litchi Fish, or Litchi Ice-cream, and of course the sugary Ceres Litchi fruit juice that was always a treat!

Honest outcome:

GOOD: there was a really special energy the whole night. My family absolutely loved reminiscing about old times. And mission accomplished, it felt as though Granny Sally, Oupi Ivan, Granny Sylvia and Grandpa Harry we were at my Shabbat table in some way, despite them being too unwell or too far across the ocean to be there in person.
NOT SO GOOD: the meat wasn’t cooked to perfection and the potatoes without the onion soup mix weren’t quite right.
Note to self: make sure you have all your ingredients before cooking and watch the oven carefully!

 

 

hello

I want to introduce myself.
I’m new to this whole blogging world, and in fact, I don’t read that many blogs myself (although I’m not sure I should be admitting that here, but I am in the process of rectifying it!).
This blog is not a blog for blogging sake. It’s an outlet for me to express myself and to have an excuse to make “special” meals for my family and friends. And best of all, it gives me an excuse to obsess about how to put together an awesome dining experience and actually bring it to life! You see, I LOVE FOOD! I love eating it, looking at it, working out what’s in it and experiencing it in a way that truly engages my whole being – through my 5 senses.

I am a mum to a gorgeous and highly energetic 21 month old little man, who unfortunately, does not appreciate food as much as I do (unless its plain cheese, grapes or vegemite toast!). Since the arrival of Little B, my darling husband, Daddy Rich, has more often than not, been the recipient of my frustration in the kitchen and therefore the meals that I have prepared (read: bought ready made) have not exactly been evident of my usual standard of food prep!

Before Little B came into our lives, I had started dabbling in the creative world of event planning, and I was loving it! But having a new born/toddler is just not conducive to a career change away from physio and into events. This has left my creative side slightly frustrated and so, “the time has come, the time is now, for me to GO GO GO, I don’t care how!” into the unknown world of food blogs!

For me, food is definitely not just about eating, and filling your belly. It’s about having an experience that transports you to another place – somewhere that inspires mindful eating and creates or conjures up beautiful memories. This is why I believe that any “special” dining experience should involve all 5 senses, to truly give you the best chance of being entertained.

My intention is to cook for my family and friends and transport them to some place or moment in time that I want to share with them. This blog is a space for me to explain how, using all 5 senses, I entertain the people I love sharing my life with.

I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I love doing it, and I hope that I can inspire you to understand the true Sense Of Entertaining!

Lara